NFL Week 13 Predictions

I was going to type a rant about how we overstate the importance of quarterbacks who aren’t very good (think Sam Bradford) while it can never be overstated for teams like Green Bay (Aaron Rodgers).

But I’m left football speechless after what happened in the Alabama-Auburn game, so save the rant for next time. That could not have happened to a greater human being than Nick Saban. What kind of jackass bypasses a 30-yard field goal that would have made it 31-21, but tries a 57-yard kick with one second left? Even with a different kicker that’s a bad decision. You have to try the Hail Mary instead.

I just hope we don’t see Ohio State in the NC game.

NFL Week 13 Predictions

Last season the home teams were 0-3 on Thanksgiving. This year they were 3-0 and I had them all.

  • Jaguars at Browns
  • Bears at Vikings
  • Cardinals at Eagles
  • Patriots at Texans
  • Titans at Colts
  • Buccaneers at Panthers
  • Dolphins at Jets
  • Falcons at Bills
  • Rams at 49ers
  • Broncos at Chiefs
  • Bengals at Chargers
  • Giants at Redskins
  • Saints at Seahawks

I don’t have much confidence in any of these picks. Could be another wild week.

Season results:

  • Week 1: 11-5
  • Week 2: 12-4
  • Week 3: 8-8
  • Week 4: 9-6
  • Week 5: 9-5
  • Week 6: 11-4
  • Week 7: 10-5
  • Week 8: 10-3
  • Week 9: 8-5
  • Week 10: 8-6
  • Week 11: 9-6
  • Week 12: 7-6-1
  • Season: 112-63-1
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NFL Week 12 Predictions & Rebranding Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning

It’s Broncos vs. Patriots, Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady for the 14th time, but this actually is not that big of a game in the AFC given New England’s loss in Carolina. Even if the Broncos lose and the Chiefs win on Sunday, it’s the Week 13 game in Kansas City that those AFC teams will really need the most to control their destiny for the No. 1 seed.

Still, it’s a lot more interesting to talk Manning-Brady than Manning-Alex Smith. Last week’s outcome was predictable. This week’s may be as well given the last 13 meetings. I’m not going to do a full preview since I may be writing an article on Insider about the game for Monday, but I will preview some things relevant to Sunday night’s meeting.

While the greatest QB rivalry ever gets all the attention, the fact is there’s never been a Manning-Brady game that was a true shootout where both quarterbacks played great and moved their offenses up and down the field. In fact, there’s been a double-digit deficit in all 13 meetings and Manning’s team has trailed by 17+ points in eight games. These matchups often come down to Manning trying to make a huge comeback, Brady failing in the four-minute offense and the New England defense either holds or allows the game-winning points.

Whether it’s the first time or the 14th, the real matchup is Manning vs. Bill Belichick: the superior quarterback against the superior team/coach.

Even in those first meetings in 2001, when this rivalry didn’t exist yet, you could see that theme of “QB vs. team.” Brady opened up a 23-0 lead on Manning in their first career meeting. He was 6-of-13 passing for 52 yards at that point in the game. In the rematch in Indy, the Patriots led 28-3 in the 2nd quarter. At that point, Brady was 7/7 for 134 yards and a TD — strong numbers for sure, but 91 yards came on one play. Meanwhile, Manning was 12-of-18 for 181 yards (sacked 3 times). Does that sound like a QB mismatch worthy of a 28-3 score? Of course not. Mike Vanderjagt had two field goals blocked in the first quarter (when does that ever happen?) and Edgerrin James fumbled.

That’s the kind of stuff that repeatedly tends to happen when these QBs play each other, because the Patriots are better at forcing mistakes and stopping teams from doing what they do best. That’s great coaching.

Belichick’s been there for every meeting while Manning will go to battle with what is technically his fifth different head coach (interim Jack Del Rio). In most of the first 13 games, Manning’s teams made a plethora of mistakes that Belichick’s teams capitalize on best. Manning’s team is -13 in turnover differential against New England.

Often the strength of Manning’s team defenses is the edge rushers. That’s not the best way to attack Brady, who can step up in the pocket and pick apart the Colts/Broncos underneath, which he’s done several times over the years. The Patriots also run the ball better than Manning’s offense, so they’re not as one dimensional. Last season against Denver Brady handed it off 50 times for 253 yards — the most rushing support of his career.  That includes a back-breaking 19-yard run on 3rd-and-17 by Danny Woodhead.

Head-to-head rushing support:

  • Manning – 329 carries for 1,290 yards (3.92 YPC)
  • Brady – 356 carries for 1,641 yards (4.61 YPC)

In game 14 of the rivalry, Brady will have home-field advantage for the ninth time. Brady has the better defense for the 12th time. Manning only had the better defense, measured by points per drive, in 2005 (40-21 win) and last year even though the Patriots were better at the start of the season and certainly better than Denver on that day.

Speaking of in-game results out of the QB’s control, Brady’s had the better starting field position in eight of the games.

pmtb

For those counting at home, we have Manning with inferior coaching, less help from his running game and he has to drive longer fields, often on the road, against superior defenses. So the 4-9 record proves what exactly? Oh yeah, the Patriots have a better team and coach.

Manning has averaged at least 39.6 yards per drive in seven of his last eight games against Belichick’s defense. That’s good enough to lead the league most seasons, so that’s a great number. But in the last two games in Foxboro, his offense threw away too  many drives. Manning threw 3 interceptions in 2010. Last season with Denver, Demaryius Thomas and Willis McGahee fumbled in the red zone, Manning fumbled to put Brady in the red zone and McGahee dropped a 4th-and-1 pass. When you get the ball 10 times in a game, you can’t piss away four drives like that and expect to win. It’s the only game in Manning’s Denver career where he could not get any closer than within 10 points in the 4th quarter. His  Broncos are 22-5 despite a -5 turnover differential.

That’s a big part of the reason I like the Patriots to win this week.

New England is coming off a tough loss in Carolina and rarely ever loses two in a row. The Patriots also did not get a takeaway. You have to go back to games 4-6 of the 2005 season to find the last time the Patriots had consecutive games without a takeaway. They’re going to get some in this game, because when you throw in some cold weather, that ball’s going to be hard to control for a Denver team with poor ball security. Even Manning has career highs with 8 fumbles (6 lost) this year.

When the Patriots win the turnover battle at home, they’re 68-2 since 2001.

On the point about the cold — some forecasts have it being under 30 or so tomorrow night — I’m not worried about it in the context of Manning’s performance. He’s long overdue for a statistical letdown game, but it won’t happen because of the weather. Since some can’t get the numbers right, here’s every Manning game with a game-time temperature of 40 degrees or less:

PM40

Clearly this is a narrative built on losing a couple of playoff games (light blue) in 02-04 in New Jersey and New England. Otherwise, where’s the problem here?

Belichick is going to take away what Denver does best. He’s smart enough to know Demaryius Thomas is the key to this offense, so look for Aqib Talib (assuming he’s healthy enough to play) to lock up, some times illegally, Thomas. He won’t shut him down, but the Patriots can’t afford a huge game from him.

Wes Welker, concussion and all, probably will have a huge game for that reason. Belichick would rather give up shorter plays to Welker than the big ones to Thomas, who is the Denver skill player capable of scoring from anywhere on the field. Julius Thomas was questionable the last time I looked, so he could be slowed by injury. Eric Decker’s opportunity is huge in this one as he’s probably the healthiest and should get the most favorable coverage.

Denver made it a point to protect Manning’s ankle against the Chiefs. Without hearing much about that this week, I expect you’ll see the Patriots generate more pressure than the Chiefs did, which was almost nothing. The advantage Manning has is this New England secondary is really banged up with several DBs listed as questionable and their playing statuses up in the air. If Manning can get enough protection to have his 4-5 receiving options running routes, then he should have a big game against this defense.

However, like last year it’s not going to matter without the Denver defense and Del Rio finally showing they can slow Brady down. Del Rio never has and while I’m not worried about old Jacksonville games, the three New England wins over Denver since 2011 are troubling. Von Miller’s not as effective if the Broncos aren’t leading, which is the same problem the Colts faced with Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis when they went up against the Patriots.

I’d welcome a legit shootout between the two HOF QBs for a change, but I just don’t see it happening. If I had to pick a previous Manning-Brady matchup for the one Sunday night will resemble most, I’d say last year’s game if NE wins, and 2006 regular season (27-20) if the Broncos win. It’s not likely Brady has a four-pick parade though.

So in the greatest QB rivalry, nothing’s really changed. Manning’s always been a better QB than Brady, but in the ultimate team game, I have to go with New England this week. That should give the Broncos extra motivation for their true big road game of the regular season: Week 13 in Kansas City.

Final prediction: Broncos 28, Patriots 35

NFL Week 12 Predictions

The game only had 30 total points, but the Saints came out on top as I expected.

  • Chargers at Chiefs
  • Bears at Rams
  • Jaguars at Texans
  • Buccaneers at Lions
  • Vikings at Packers
  • Panthers at Dolphins
  • Jets at Ravens
  • Steelers at Browns
  • Colts at Cardinals
  • Titans at Raiders
  • Cowboys at Giants
  • Broncos at Patriots
  • 49ers at Redskins

Season results:

  • Week 1: 11-5
  • Week 2: 12-4
  • Week 3: 8-8
  • Week 4: 9-6
  • Week 5: 9-5
  • Week 6: 11-4
  • Week 7: 10-5
  • Week 8: 10-3
  • Week 9: 8-5
  • Week 10: 8-6
  • Week 11: 9-6
  • Season: 105-57

Sport Science Deceives Again After a Controversial Monday Night Football Ending

George Orwell probably could have envisioned a TV feature where propaganda is fed to the masses all under the disguise of “Sport Science.”

Oh, they used science, so us simpletons can’t possibly dispute it!”

ESPN airs Sport Science segments and it just so happens that Monday Night Football has had the two most controversial endings since the 2012 season. Last year it was the Golden Tate play, which of course prompted a Sport Science feature. The NFL supported the call the whole way, but the general public was outraged over the touchdown. Naturally, the feature flat out lied to say M.D. Jennings “made first contact with the ball” even though it’s clear he did not.

tate

Jump to this week and the game-ending play between the Patriots and Panthers. Luke Kuechly certainly makes significant contact with Rob Gronkowski in the back of the end zone, but the pass was underthrown and intercepted in the front of the end zone by Robert Lester. A flag was thrown, but picked up and the game was over.

The NFL official said Monday night the pass was deemed uncatchable as it was underthrown. On Tuesday, the NFL added that the officials felt the contact on Gronkowski occurred at or about the same time as the pass was intercepted. Once a ball is touched, even by the smallest of fingertips, there is no pass interference.

Hardly the same negative reaction as last year’s play, but many (most?) people think a penalty was warranted. Once again we got a Sport Science feature on the play.

Again, their “scientific analysis” goes against the NFL call (and rules), satisfying the public in the process. Scientific? Hardly. Just as I did with the Golden Tate play last year, I took a copy of the game and broke it down with video editing software.

The first problem is Sport Science (SS) uses this spot for when Kuechly makes contact:

contact

That’s not a penalty. Players touch each other all the time down the field, often considered incidental contact, but for it to be pass interference, you have to do one of the following from the NFL rule book:

Actions that constitute defensive pass interference include but are not limited to:

(a) Contact by a defender who is not playing the ball and such contact restricts the receiver’s opportunity to make the catch.

(b) Playing through the back of a receiver in an attempt to make a play on the ball.

(c) Grabbing a receiver’s arm(s) in such a manner that restricts his opportunity to catch a pass.

(d) Extending an arm across the body of a receiver thus restricting his ability to catch a pass, regardless of whether the defender is playing the ball.

(e) Cutting off the path of a receiver by making contact with him without playing the ball.

(f) Hooking a receiver in an attempt to get to the ball in such a manner that it causes the receiver’s body to turn prior to the ball arriving.

Now you can say Kuechly did a few of these at some point on the play, but SS determines it was a penalty as soon as he touched him, which is wrong. Also, there’s some very interesting language in the NFL rules about what is not pass interference:

Actions that do not constitute pass interference include but are not limited to:

(a) Incidental contact by a defender’s hands, arms, or body when both players are competing for the ball, or neither player is looking for the ball. If there is any question whether contact is incidental, the ruling shall be no interference.

(b) Inadvertent tangling of feet when both players are playing the ball or neither player is playing the ball.

(c) Contact that would normally be considered pass interference, but the pass is clearly uncatchable by the involved players.

(d) Laying a hand on a receiver that does not restrict the receiver in an attempt to make a play on the ball.

(e) Contact by a defender who has gained position on a receiver in an attempt to catch the ball.

The part in bold is most interesting as the involved players are Gronkowski and Kuechly. Since Lester intercepted the underthrown ball, it’s no stretch to say neither Kuechly or Gronkowski could have caught the ball, so it’s uncatchable and there’s no penalty. We see end-of-game defense played like this all the time with contact in the end zone. That’s why we’ve seen one pass interference on a Hail Mary in the last 15+ years, and that wasn’t even a good call.

So starting from the wrong time frame, SS concludes “the contact in dispute happened two-thirds of a second before the ball was intercepted.”

So they’re saying 0.667 seconds and the argument would be that’s enough time for the refs to see it before the interception. However, it wasn’t 0.667 seconds. We need to find the point where pass interference actually happened.

This element of the play is what I called “patty-cake” on Twitter. It’s just two guys touching hands; not a penalty by any means.

patty

At the end of the patty-cake, Kuechly reaches his left hand to Gronk’s shoulder, which is still not a penalty. The restriction comes when he reaches his right arm and makes that bear-hug that has been captured in many still images this week:

bhug

Now we start to have enough contact where one can call it PI should they feel it was catchable, but look where the ball’s at. It’s nearly arrived, underthrown, and Lester is reaching out to make the impending interception.

les

If we take the time from where Kuechly gets his right hand around Gronkowski to the point where Lester touches the ball, that’s at most 0.43 seconds (about a “one-miss-is”). It took 1.33 seconds for the ball to leave Brady’s hand and be intercepted by Lester, so the meaningful contact came on just under the final third of the play when the ball was in the air and pass interference was possible.

That’s not 0.667, and in live action with an underthrown ball and the defender already motioning to make the interception, it’s easy to see why the referees would declare the contact happened at roughly the time of the interception.

SS did play up the “Gronk’s superhuman, he can catch the ball!” — no really, that was spoken on TV by someone on another network yesterday — angle, but by botching the point of any infraction, there’s no scientific evidence he could have made a play on the ball had he not been contacted. He clearly never expected the pass to be underthrown and was not headed in the direction the ball ultimately did.

So it’s a good no-call, because the last thing we need is an offense getting a second chance for poor execution. This ending also adds to the overwhelming proof that referees would rather go with the result on the field (interception) than to make a critical, game-changing call. It happened with Golden Tate, it happened with Michael Crabtree in the Super Bowl and it will continue to happen. Maybe Gronkowski should have learned from Greg Olsen on how to sell it better.

The only reason a call like this gets so much attention is because it was a prime-time game between two good teams, it was a great game and the final play was everyone’s favorite meathead tight end trying to catch a pass from a golden boy quarterback.

If this was Rams at Panthers in a 1 p.m. Sunday setting on FOX and Kellen Clemens underthrew that pass to Jared Cook, you’d get no outcry over the ending. You would get NBC’s Dan Patrick reading the following over a highlight of the play: “Last chance for the Rams. Kellen Clemens, uhh, not quite enough air. Robert Lester with the interception. Carolina has won six straight. Stay tuned for Hines Ward’s ten words of analysis…”

And you know this, man.

Update, 11/22/2013: It was brought to my attention that the link to the Sport Science video on ESPN no longer works. One link says “NOT FOUND” while clicking on the one I used in this article takes you to this video page:

win

Interesting.

Patriots Should Know Pass Interference Well

Yes, another controversial NFL ending took place on Monday night when Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly grabbed New England tight end Rob Gronkowski in the end zone on the final play. The ball was underthrown anyway and intercepted, but there was a flag thrown that was picked up for the pass being uncatchable, so no pass interference. Game over.

By the laws of physics, it really was uncatchable as Gronkowski’s momentum led him to the back of the end zone and he was not expecting such an underthrown pass.

Some people — let’s call them Patriot fans– want to contest that they’ve never seen a team get away with being able to block a receiver out of the play and that it’s okay to call uncatchable because an underthrown pass was intercepted.

Well, they must have forgotten the 2010 season:

PM10

Peyton Manning had the Colts on a comeback attempt, but when he was hit as he threw the ball, it was well underthrown to the intended target, who was Pierre Garcon. That target was also grabbed by the defense, but at least Garcon tries to come back to the ball, which is something Gronkowski never did. The defensive back also had to reach up much higher to make this interception than the Carolina play. Given the reach for the pick and Garcon’s movement, this play was just as close if not closer than what happened Monday night.

Live by the sword, die by the sword. Maybe Gronkowski should have pushed someone in the end zone like he did in 2011 to free himself for a touchdown on fourth down against the Giants. We know referees are afraid to make the big calls.

Gronkd

NFL Week 11 Predictions & Chiefs-Broncos Preview

We have three key games to focus on this week (49ers at Saints, Chiefs at Broncos and Patriots at Panthers), but one stands above the rest.

Chiefs at Broncos

I’ve already had a lot to say and tweet about this game, so I’m not going to repeat much of that here.

Simply put, I don’t believe in the Chiefs’ 9-0 record or that their defense is one of the all-time best. I think it’s a reflection of who they have played, which shouldn’t impress anyone. The Denver offense is historically impressive and has dominated to a higher level than the Chiefs’ defense. There’s also stronger correlation and consistency in maintaining offensive performance than there is defense. You can throw a touchdown to Wes Welker many times in the red zone, but once in a blue moon will you get Jeff Tuel’s gracious peace offering for a 100-yard pick-six.

The only reason I don’t think the Broncos easily win by 17+ points is because Kansas City’s catching them at the best possible time. The Chiefs had a bye week to rest and prepare. Jack Del Rio is in at interim head coach following John Fox’s surgery. Peyton Manning aggravated his high ankle sprain at the end of last week’s game and we don’t know how he’ll handle the outside pressure since his tackles are struggling. It’s also going to be pretty cold and while the “Manning in bad weather” thing is BS, no old quarterback with neck and ankle issues is going to benefit from that.

What I do know is you have to score a lot of points to beat a Peyton Manning team and I don’t think Alex Smith is capable of doing it on Sunday night. This so-called “winner” is 2-23 when his team allows more than 24 points. He’s 11-24 against teams with a winning record and has 35 TD to 40 INT in those games (just one 300-yard passing game). He’s 5-16 on the road against good teams and averages 164 passing yards in those contests.

Maybe Smith can get it done in Arrowhead in a 23-20 game (against Brock Osweiler given his luck lately), but the Denver defense plays better at home and Von Miller is going to have his say too.

To beat Manning you have to put up a lot of points or shrink the game and limit his possessions, forcing him to be basically perfect (maximum efficiency). The Chiefs have done neither this season. The offense has never scored more than 24 points and their games almost always include double-digit possessions.

Excluding those pesky playoff rest games, here’s every Manning loss since 2007 and what his defense did (kneel-down drives excluded):

PMDEF

For context, anything above 3.0 Pts/Dr is incredibly elite while 2.48 Pts/Dr means you have to be a top-2 offense. 1.80 would be just above average in recent seasons.

You have to go back to the 6-INT night in San Diego to find a game where Manning lost despite the opposing offense being below average in scoring. Darren Sproles had two return touchdowns and even then Manning was a missed 29-yard field goal by Adam Vinatieri in erasing a 23-0 deficit for a win. Even if the Chiefs get a lead of 17-24 points, we know from every Denver loss since 2012 that those aren’t safe.

Meanwhile here’s the Chiefs’ 2013 offense and their per-drive production:

KCOFF

So let’s see… The Chiefs average 1.58 Pts/Dr this year and this is despite having the best average starting field position in football. I noticed a lot of their scoring drives started deep in opponent territory, so their scoring is even less impressive than it already sounds. They feast on mistakes, which the Broncos are certainly guilty of since 2012, so ball security is a must this week.

In Manning’s last 19 losses, no one had less than 1.89 Pts/Dr. That would be the 3rd-best game of the season for the Chiefs.

Given you seemingly need to hit at least 2.0 Pts/Dr to beat Manning, who’s expecting the Chiefs’ offense to deliver on their end? There’s Jamaal Charles, but there’s not much else to worry about.

Simply put, Manning hasn’t lost to an offense this bad since David Carr and the 2006 Houston Texans (ranked 23rd with 1.50 Pts/Dr). How did that one work out? Houston rushed for 191 yards, limited Manning to six possessions, got one fumble from Dominic Rhodes and still needed a 48-yard game-winning field goal with no time left in a 27-24 game.

The KC defense should not give up 40+, but nothing short of their offense having their best game of the season will win this one. I also don’t think the Chiefs can win without being at least +2 in turnover differential.

According to Football Outsiders, the Chiefs have the No. 2 pass defense (DVOA). Here’s a table of Manning’s last 29 games against a top 5 pass defense (DVOA) since 2003. Playoff rest games are colored as are the five games I would consider “bad performances” from Manning. That’s an unscientific way of saying games where he was more of the problem than the solution for his team.

PMT5DEF

We’ll revisit this matchup in two weeks and perhaps again in January, but I just see the Broncos as a superior team even if they are vulnerable right now.

Final prediction: Chiefs 16, Broncos 27.

2013 NFL Week 11 Predictions

The Colts rarely make it look easy, but I had them on TNF.

Winners in bold:

  • Redskins at Eagles
  • Raiders at Texans
  • Falcons at Buccaneers
  • Browns at Bengals
  • Ravens at Bears
  • Lions at Steelers
  • Jets at Bills
  • Cardinals at Jaguars
  • Chargers at Dolphins
  • 49ers at Saints
  • Packers at Giants
  • Vikings at Seahawks
  • Chiefs at Broncos
  • Patriots at Panthers

Season results:

  • Week 1: 11-5
  • Week 2: 12-4
  • Week 3: 8-8
  • Week 4: 9-6
  • Week 5: 9-5
  • Week 6: 11-4
  • Week 7: 10-5
  • Week 8: 10-3
  • Week 9: 8-5
  • Week 10: 8-6
  • Season: 96-51

NFL Week 10 Predictions & 2013 Midseason Awards

The 2013 NFL season is halfway over and we know just a little more than we did in August.

We know four fairly consistent teams are sitting at 2-6 and possibly (likely?) headed for their first losing season in some time: Texans (2010), Falcons (2007), Giants (2004) and Steelers (2003). The Ravens (3-5) may soon join them for the first non-playoff season in the John Harbaugh/Joe Flacco era. Too bad that “championship gene” dissolves easily in the offseason without enough talent and luck to keep it together.

him

It’s unclear how the coaches feel, but Mike Tomlin’s thoughts are easy to predict.

“Obviously, a variety of things create the end result, but it’s a result we’re going to take. We’ll tighten the screws, put a hat on a hat and continue to scoop the proof out of the pudding. We accept every serving we get this season. Sometimes it’s tough to chew, but everyone with a willing, hungry mouth will continue to get his plate filled this season. We have eight games remaining on our schedule and you can guarantee we look forward to completing each and every one of them.”

Speaking of standards being standards, we have a new high and low when it comes to 0-8 teams. The Buccaneers are the best 0-8 team ever while the Jaguars are the least competitive team since the 1970 merger. The Jaguars have trailed thru the end of every game after the 11:34 mark of the second quarter. It wouldn’t shock me if both win this weekend, but as far as 0-8 goes, these teams couldn’t be much different in how they’ve played.

It’s not only the win-less teams standing out for some of the wrong reasons…

  • Are the 2013 Chiefs the worst 9-0 team ever? Well, despite the soft schedule, their scoring margin is +104, which amazingly is one point ahead of my 2008 Titans (+103) comparison.
  • Are the 2013 Seahawks the worst 8-1 team ever? This has not been a dominant team and falling behind 21-0 to Tampa Bay will hopefully be a wake-up call.
  • Are the 2013 Patriots the worst 7-2 team ever? No, thanks to the Pittsburgh defense. With a favorable schedule, don’t count out a No. 1 seed (again) for them.

Oakland will not be the worst 2013 team as I predicted, but Sunday’s loss to Philadelphia sure looked like the team I expected to see often. Thanks for letting Nick Foles devalue the single-game touchdown pass record.

The Colts and Seahawks lead the league with three fourth-quarter comeback wins. Okay, not everything’s changed from last year. We’ll watch Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson battle for the most game-winning drives thru a player’s first two seasons:

GWD1st2

We’ll also watch Peyton Manning try to break the records for passing touchdowns and yards in a season. The schedule will likely be too difficult to set any efficiency records, but the volume could go down. He also has the Broncos on pace for 686 points, which would smash the previous record (589):

MPts

Week 10 Viewing

Here are some mini-previews for what I’ll be focusing on Sunday afternoon.

Bills at Steelers – I can go on a really long rant about this one, but I’ll try to keep it short. This reeks of a game where the Steelers will do well at home against a rookie quarterback, bringing out the “Dick LeBeau is a master of defense!” narrative because he has a great record against rookies since 2004. He didn’t have to play against Ben Roethlisberger (2004). He didn’t face Matt Ryan (2008). He didn’t see Andrew Luck or Russell Wilson last year. When he played Robert Griffin III, the Redskins had damn-near 12 dropped passes in the game. They stopped themselves. I think the Buffalo running game is a major asset in this one, but EJ Manuel will have to play well in his first game back from injury, which I don’t particularly see happening.

Yet why should anything on Sunday erase the 55-point, 610-yard ass-kicking this defense suffered last week? How does he get a pass for this season for that matter? How can he live down TEBOW? That’s the root problem with the Steelers. No team rests on their laurels as much as they do. As deficiencies have crept up, there’s been no solutions from the GM or Tomlin on how to fix them. Apparently they will fix themselves because “we’re the Steelers, we’ve won six Super Bowls and we’re just going to do what we do.”

Well, the NFL is moving on without you, Pittsburgh. Hopefully you’ll soon turn out the lights in the trophy room and read up on how to build a winner in today’s NFL.

Panthers at 49ers – Both teams have a mobile QB drafted in 2011. Both teams have a stingy defense. Both teams have been on an ass-kicking run against ass-sucking competition. Is it as simple as going with the home team, who just so happens to be the more reliable option? I’m not quick to accept teams without a proven track record. This would be Carolina’s biggest win since at least 2009. We know this team is historically awful in close games and has very few quality wins over the years, so this would be a big step forward. The 49ers, we can trust them more due to the talent they have and their results the last two years under Jim Harbaugh, who had a bye week to prepare for this one.

If Carolina wins I can start to admit I was wrong about them, but they have to show it first. A team I was skeptical on years ago was the 2005 Bengals when Carson Palmer broke out and the defense was getting a ton of interceptions. Without a track record I refused to believe they were legit. I even foolishly made a statement that Palmer would never win a playoff game in his career. Well, he hasn’t, and the Bengals still haven’t won one either. However, I cannot take much credit as that torn ACL suffered in the playoff game certainly had an impact on his/their future.

That’s the NFL sometimes. You can make a prediction, be right about it, but if the reason is something you never had in mind, should you really take credit?

So I’m all about seeing what the Panthers do not only in this game, but against the Patriots in Week 11. Please, make me believe this year is different.

Broncos at Chargers – “Can” the Chargers beat the Broncos? The answer’s always yes to the “can” question, but what would be the reasons? One of them will not be “Mike McCoy knows the Denver offense because he used to be their coordinator!” as that’s a sorry excuse you often hear but rarely ever see matter in a game. Not everyone is as foolish as the 2002 Raiders in how they called the game against Jon Gruden.

Besides, it’s not McCoy’s offense, it’s Peyton Manning’s offense, which defenses haven’t really stopped since he was a rookie. However, when Manning plays San Diego, some weird shit tends to happen. Ask Kenton Keith or San Diego punter Mike Scifres. Last year, Eric Decker tripped and fell on what would have been an 85-yard touchdown.  Three plays later Matt Willis ran the wrong route and it cost Denver a pick-six. In the rematch in Denver, Manning had a bubble screen tipped and returned for a touchdown.

If San Diego can put together long drives against a suspect defense (like they did against the Colts), but finish them for touchdowns, while getting some mistakes from the mistake-heavy Broncos, then of course they can win this one. It probably helps that John Fox is out and Jack Del Rio is the interim coach. Though that could actually benefit the Denver offense if Jack Del Riverboat returns and allows Manning to try some fourth-down attempts not done on Fox’s watch. This could be another very interesting shootout or a big Denver comeback.

I’m just happy to finally see a 2013 AFC West game that doesn’t involve Oakland.

2013 Midseason Awards

  • MVP – Peyton Manning (would be first NFL player to win MVP with two different teams)
  • Coach – Andy Reid
  • Offensive – Calvin Johnson
  • Defensive – Richard Sherman (someone notable from a top defense)
  • Comeback – Philip Rivers (for previously being lousy?)
  • OROY – Eddie Lacy
  • DROY – Kiko Alonso

Those picks of Jamaal Charles for MVP are a cute way of trying to be different and get some page hits, but let’s be honest. No way is the MVP a player on a sub-par unit for a team being carried by its defense against one of the easiest schedules since 1989.

There’s plenty of time left for most of these competitions to heat up, though I have to think Andy Reid has the coach award on lockdown, unless he suffers a second-half slide that could make Josh McDaniels blush.

2013 NFL Week 10 Predictions

Well I’m on a TNF losing streak now after Washington faded following a 27-14 lead.

Winners in bold:

  • Bengals at Ravens
  • Bills at Steelers
  • Lions at Bears
  • Raiders at Giants
  • Eagles at Packers
  • Rams at Colts
  • Seahawks at Falcons
  • Jaguars at Titans
  • Panthers at 49ers
  • Texans at Cardinals
  • Broncos at Chargers
  • Cowboys at Saints
  • Dolphins at Buccaneers

Season results:

  • Week 1: 11-5
  • Week 2: 12-4
  • Week 3: 8-8
  • Week 4: 9-6
  • Week 5: 9-5
  • Week 6: 11-4
  • Week 7: 10-5
  • Week 8: 10-3
  • Week 9: 8-5
  • Season: 88-45

I don’t feel confident about picking the Eagles and Bengals, but that’s too many home teams if I didn’t.

I’m not picking the Buccaneers to win because Miami has no leadership and is distracted by douchebaggery, but I just think the two teams are pretty even and Tampa Bay’s been so close to getting a win. It’s time.

Also, the Jaguars are 1-20 in their last 21 games, but the one win was over Tennessee. Mike Munchak’s already lost to an 0-13 team (2011 Colts) in his career. Watch out…

But don’t ever be shocked anymore.

NFL Week 9 Predictions

Last week was about as bad as expected when it came to the quality of games. At least the Cowboys and Lions delivered a regular-season classic for us. This week, I expect things to be a little better, but I’m not sure where the game of the week will come from.

Falcons at Panthers – Yes, Carolina’s won three straight and by a margin of 96-38, but slow the hype train down. It was only the Vikings, Rams and Buccaneers — three teams who will be fortunate to get another win in 2013. It wouldn’t shock me if the Falcons won this game, though I’m just about done with picking Atlanta to do anything this season. The defense is rotten and the losses on offense have been too much to overcome.

Chiefs at Bills – I felt good about putting the Chiefs on upset alert for this one, but with Jeff Tuel likely making his first start in place of Thad Lewis, it should be another typical Chiefs game: a close win over a lousy opponent/QB.

Saints at jets – The Ryan Bowl. It wouldn’t shock me if the Jets pull this one out, but I think the trend of alternating wins and losses comes to an end here. Reminder: the Jets lost last week, in case you forgot when Andy Dalton looked great. If that QB can throw five touchdowns against this defense, what can Drew Brees do?

Steelers at Patriots – Six of the last eight meetings have been decided by 13+ points. Personally, this is the first time I’ll watch this matchup and really not even care what the Steelers do. This used to be a huge AFC game with playoff implications. The last six times these teams have met, one of them went to the Super Bowl that season. That’s not likely to continue in 2013.

Colts at Texans – Check out my preview for this one here. It has GOTW potential, but frankly any outcome wouldn’t surprise me in a divisional game between teams coming off the bye. I’m not sure I watched the Colts play a live football game without Reggie Wayne since the 1995 AFC Championship in Pittsburgh.

2013 NFL Week 9 Predictions

Beaten by a safety in overtime. I knew picking Cincinnati was a risk, but I didn’t expect that type of finish. So that’s the first TNF mistake of the season.

Winners in bold:

  • Vikings at Cowboys
  • Falcons at Panthers
  • Chiefs at Bills
  • Chargers at Redskins
  • Saints at Jets
  • Titans at Rams
  • Buccaneers at Seahawks
  • Eagles at Raiders
  • Ravens at Browns
  • Steelers at Patriots
  • Colts at Texans
  • Bears at Packers

Season results:

  • Week 1: 11-5
  • Week 2: 12-4
  • Week 3: 8-8
  • Week 4: 9-6
  • Week 5: 9-5
  • Week 6: 11-4
  • Week 7: 10-5
  • Week 8: 10-3
  • Season: 80-40